Wednesday, August 28, 2019
Love and Death Among the Cheetahs by Rhys Bowen: Reading Room Review
Oh, it's so delightful to be back with Lady Georgie and her handsome new husband Darcy O'Mara. It is a balm to my soul, a respite from the world. Knowing that when I open a book in this series I will be swept away by great storytelling, some good humor, and characters that I love is a reassurance that feeling good is still an option in our challenging world. And, then there is the history that I crave in a story, an authentic connection to the time period in which the story takes place. There is certainly nothing didactic about Rhys Bowen's writing, but you will absolutely come away having learned something about the 1930's in England, and in this instance Africa, too, from reading Georgie's experiences and adventures. The "Historical Note" page at the end of the book will inform the reader of any historical inconsistencies in the story and point out the facts upon which the story is based. It is the perfect blend of imagination and fact that makes this series, and this book, so thoroughly enjoyable. Although the issues of what's going on in the world at the time of this book are serious, and the author doesn't gloss over the bad behavior of the British colonists in Kenya, there is still the wit and charm of Georgie and Darcy to satisfy fans of the series.
It is the end of July 1935 in England and the end of supplies on the houseboat on which Lady Georgie and her just-wedded husband Darcy are honeymooning on the Thames River in London. Georgie is yearning for some cucumber sandwiches and Darcy is ready for some additional space beyond the cramped confines of the houseboat, although for a short time neither food nor space was the most important focus. So, back to regular life and hopefully some more honeymoon elsewhere. It won't be at Georgie's brother's home in London, with sister-in-law Fig's sour reception, but as often happens with Georgie and Darcy, something turns up, and they don't have to return to their new home in Eynsleigh either. Darcy surprises Georgie at the Queen's garden party with the news that they will be traveling to Kenya for an exciting extended honeymoon, and that they will be traveling by plane via Imperial Airlines, an adventure in itself.
Once in Kenya, Georgie and Darcy meet up with Freddie Blanchford, an old friend of Darcy's and an employee of the British government. He takes them along the rutted roads to the rich enclave of British aristocrats called Happy Valley, where the newlyweds will be staying during their visit. Of course, Georgie catches on fairly quickly that Darcy is not just in Kenya to enjoy a honeymoon and that Freddie is part of whatever is going on. She also catches on that life in Happy Valley is far removed from anything she's ever known or imagined. Drinking, partying, and mate swapping seem to be accepted as the norm, and one of the biggest players in this depravity is Lord Cheriton. Georgie and Darcy have no interest in what passes for Happy Valley norm though, and Georgie firmly rejects a pass from Lord Cheriton. Things go from shocking social behavior to murder when Lord Cheriton is found murdered in the brush off the side of the country road. Georgie and Darcy find this leader of the pack dead after one of the community’s wild parties. There is no shortage of suspects for the murder, and the possibilities include jealous husbands, jealous wives, and Nazi sympathizers. Our favorite couple soon find themselves fearing humans more than the wild animals as they try to figure out if a murderer or someone connected to Darcy’s mission is out to get them.
One of the ways I determine if a book was a good read for me is if it keeps me thinking beyond the story and wanting to know more about a setting, either the time or place, and the events that happened. At the end of the book, Rhys Bowen not only includes her brief historical notes, but she also includes a bibliography of research sources she used. I appreciate having these titles to further explore. So, Love and Death Among the Cheetahs was a most satisfying read in giving me reading beyond a single book or story.
As always, Rhys Bowen has given readers an engaging tale, full of adventure that is uniquely Georgie. The minor characters in this book were not always likeable, but they were interesting. And, it's always fun when Wallace Simpson shows up and Georgie has to interact with her. I rather wish that Queenie had accompanied Georgie to Kenya for that unique Queenie humor that would have so baffled the aristocrats there, but I expect we will see more of her soon. This series continues to be one of my favorite. I can't wait to see how Georgie and Darcy settle into married life at Eynsleigh, with all the supporting cast of home.